Search results for "skanska"

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Ride Share or Ridership?

How does the design of Los Angeles's new Expo Line stack up?

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has finally rebuilt one of L.A’s original commuter streetcar lines: The Expo line, a 15.2-mile long appendage that will link Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Completion of the $2.5 billion route marks an important milestone for the region’s maturing 25-year-old rapid transit system. The lead architectural and urban design was by Gruen Associates who, with planning and design firm RAW International, crafted the system’s transit stops; Parsons Brinckerhoff carried out overall planning; and Skanska spearheaded construction. The Expo line is the transit agency’s latest effort to weave light rail travel into a growing, multimodal web of mobility options available to Angelenos—it is as much a new way to see Los Angeles as it is a train.

While the system’s 1990s-era subway stations play fast and loose with decorative schemes—from massive boulders at Beverly and Vermont to highly polished kitsch at the Hollywood and Vine and Chinatown stops—Expo stations are subdued. Mostly located at-grade and topped by a half-hexagonal mop of ocean wave–inspired, perforated aluminum panels supported by a sinuous, pale-blue, crisscrossing armature, the stations try hard to be poetically mundane. A product of tight budgets, the line’s many at-grade crossings and stations result in a crude and dangerous construct: Drivers are forced to acknowledge light rail trains and passengers as a legitimate urban presence through their sheer occupation of the street. This condition could benefit from a more aggressive transformation of the intersections and sidewalks leading up to each station: Introducing simple elements like bollards, contrasting paving strategies, and other speed mitigating measures would do much to improve what should be nodes of pedestrian activity.

Stations between Downtown L.A. and the University of Southern California campus are easily approached from the street via handicap ramps and feature no-frills signage. The concourses are, again, simple in their articulation, with a smattering of concrete and aluminum benches. These stations are earnest attempts at creating planted flags in what might one day be a larger, more prototypically pedestrian urban expanse. The empty storefronts along many of the tacky, faux-Italianate perimeter block apartment complexes in the area, while highlighted by the stations’ electric bolt silhouette, have yet to benefit from the line’s booming ridership. As of now, these stops are desolate, quite a few gentrification waves away from being viable transit-oriented developments. At-grade stops between USC and Culver City are also unsuccessful as stations, with complicated tangles of pedestrians, trains, and drivers.

The elevated stations further west, however, like those at Culver City, La Cienega, and Bundy, announce themselves from a distance as a new type of elevated object in the Southern California sky. Less majestic than Chicago’s industrial-era L stations, the elevated Expo stops gently appropriate the language of freeway vernacular, subverting the typical L.A. overpass by co-locating a landscaped bicycle path and potentially, future stations for the system’s new bike share program, along the length of most of the line. These areas are straightforwardly open spaces; the overhead bridges’ weights reach the ground via four discrete and compact piers, leaving room for drop off and transfer areas. Large concrete walls designed in great relief, populated with complex, pixelated geometric motifs and lushly planted with drought-tolerant flora line the bike path itself. Instead of dank, unwelcoming troll bridges like those associated with the freeways, Expo’s overhead crossings are places for collective movement, an aspect exemplified by their minimal treatment and the location of a variety of specially-commissioned art installations at each stop. Riders ascend via elevators and stairways to reach the platforms that provide molehills from which to gaze out over the city’s flatlands. But, because one is walking—and waiting—instead of driving, the effect is potentially one of true introspection.

The western terminus at Santa Monica is also a fundamentally pedestrian urban gesture. The station is built as an elevated plaza that cascades to the north in a broad set of stairs, funneling travelers toward major pedestrian shopping areas and into the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, redesigned as a massive diagonal crossing intersection. Here, the intersection is striped with massive white bands of paint in a strangely fitting plaza and civic space for Los Angeles.

If it is indeed Metro’s goal to normalize multi-modal transit in Los Angeles, then the Expo train, with a few tweaks, is a good template for what the rest of the region’s rapid transit system might look like in the future. Expo’s design and existence is an unexpectedly powerful, if somewhat work-in-progress expression on behalf of transit-mixed streets.

       
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Brexit

The Brexit promises instability and challenges for Europe's architecture industry

It takes something of considerable magnitude to shift the global limelight from the U.S. presidential election. However, it appears Britain has done just that. The U.K. voted to leave the European Union and the largest trading bloc in the world, of which it has been a member for nearly half a century.

Economists and financial traders have frantically responded; The Architect’s Newspaper surveyed firms for their reactions and examined the outlook for the U.K. and Europe's architecture scene. Before the vote, many of the leading U.K. architecture practices—including Thomas Heatherwick, David Adjaye and David Chipperfield, among others—all pledged their support for remaining in the European Union. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tItgGcWVHw

In terms of pure economics, share price fluctuation—notably of construction firms and developers—is one good indicator of industry confidence. When the market opened for the first time post-referendum, shares of Barratt Developments PLC, the biggest U.K. house builder by sales, fell as much as 32 percent, while shares of Persimmon PLC, which is the largest builder by market capitalization, dropped by 40 percent. Developers too were also wounded, with Derwent London dropping by 18 percent while British Land and Great Portland Estates saw share prices drop by 16 percent.

About a month prior to the referendum, architects and industry leaders held a panel discussion and came to the resounding conclusion that a "Brexit" would not be beneficial to the industry. David Green, director of Belsize Architects and former head of the European Division of the Bank of England, spoke of how procurement of labor and materials would be hindered by being outside the E.U., thereby inflating pricing.

He also added how the recognition of professional qualifications is “critical"; more decisions post-Brexit will be needed to set a common standard. The same quandary of materials standards would also apply. Jason Prior, chief executive of building and places at AECOM, commented that "Whether it be an Italian facade system or German tiles, those components can be used across the E.U. without any hinderance.”

As for now, the U.K. is still in the European Union, and the referendum was only advisory. Still, to reject the result would be politically challenging, if not impossible. The next step is to invoke Article 50, which essentially presses the red button on leaving the E.U. The process gives the U.K. two years to negotiate an exit deal. Provided that many of those who voted to leave cited immigration as their motivation, the free movement of people and labor may be tricky to maintain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BMRq96sAwk

The British construction industry relies on Eastern European builders and tradesmen, coming most notably from Poland and Lithuania. David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt Developments, said “If you ask any house-builder what their main challenge is, they say it’s labor availability.” That labor supply, of course, could be maintained if Britain negotiates access to the single market (the European Economic Area) in an approach similar to Norway, whereby freedom of movement is still permitted.

Currently embroiled in the midst of a housing crisis, the U.K. government has been urged by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) "to not turn off the free-flowing tap of European migrant workers;" the FMB added that twelve percent of British construction workers are of non-U.K. origin. "They have helped the construction industry bounce back from the economic downturn, when 400,000 skilled workers left the industry," the FMB said.

Another complication of Britain's impending withdrawal is that Scotland now has a strong mandate for a repeat referendum on their own independence. In 2014, 55 percent of voters from an 85 percent turnout chose not to leave. For the E.U. referendum, only 67 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, but should Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's calls for independence be successful, England would lose a wealth of timber stock, notably Scots Pine, which could make meeting England's housing demand even more tricky.

Former London Mayor and leading protagonist of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson, has said that Article 50's enactment “will not come in any great rush." Johnson, who is the bookmaker's favorite to be the next Prime Minister, also added that his only aim is for Britain to "extricate itself from the E.U.’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation.” However, this notion was recently rebuffed by an E.U. diplomat who said “You cannot have your cake and eat it.”

Meanwhile, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) spoke of how architects bidding for public contracts in the E.U. would probably not be hindered. "For architects bidding for public contracts in the EU, no immediate changes are likely," they said. "E.U. law expressly forbids any weight in a procurement decision being given to the country of origin of a bid for a public contract. As such, access to public contracts for U.K. bids is not dependent on the U.K.’s membership of the E.U."

Here's what some of the leading figures in Britain and Europe had to say on the referendum result:

Rogers, Stirk Harbour and Partners

“Where do we go from here?" Richard Rogers' practice has asked. "We now face a difficult period of great uncertainty. All those questions left hanging by those leading the drive towards leaving the EU will now have to be answered. This will take time (years) and in the interim requires great adaptability and resilience from us all."

OMA

Renier de Graaf has said in a statement: "In a world where the most pressing issues inevitably exceed the size of nations, interdependence between nations is a fact. When problems escalate, so must inevitably the arena in which they are addressed. An institution like the E.U. is born out of the knowledge that in the face of the bigger issues we are all minorities. Countries in Europe have a choice: they can either realize or ignore the fact they are small. Yet small they are. All. Including Britain."

Allies & Morrison

In a statement to The Architect's Newspaper the firm said: "More than a quarter of our staff come from other E.U. countries. Over the course of our careers, we have enjoyed, been stimulated by and come to rely on their intelligence, broad education and warm experience. We remain committed to employing the best people from around the world."

Co-founder Graham Morrisson said: “Over the course of our careers, we have enjoyed, been stimulated by and come to rely on the intelligence, broad education and warm experience of the many architects from the E.U. that we have had the privilege to employ." Fellow co-founder Bob Allies, added: “More than a quarter of our staff come from the EU and the thought of losing that easy access to such a rich seam of talent is a consequence of the vote that will take a long time to adjust to.” David Adjaye Associates “We are truly disappointed with the outcome of the referendum," said Adjaye's office in a statement. As an increasingly international business, which benefits from a global pool of talent (and in particular from within the E.U.), we were hoping to remain."

3D Reid

“I fail to see how the Leave vote can be a good thing, certainly in the short term, but the truth is we simply don’t know what this means in the long term," said Graham Hickson-Smith, Director, 3D Reid. “The impact on sterling says it all. An out vote is bad for business." Skanska

Swedish construction firm Skanska issued a statement to AN: "Skanska acknowledges the choice made by the people of the U.K. to leave the European Union. Now the result is known, there will inevitably be a period of uncertainty as the country adjusts to the outcome of this very important decision. We will continue to assess the longer-term implications of the result on our business. However, we do not envisage any significant changes in the near future.”

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No Longer Up In the Air

$4 billion LaGuardia renovation to begin this summer
Recent press releases from the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the construction firm Skanska have revealed that a final partnership to renovate LaGuardia Airport has been made. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) consists of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and LaGuardia Gateway Partners, which is in turn comprised of the construction company Skanska, airport operator Vantage Airport Group, investment company Meridiam, among others. The architects are HOK. The deal includes the “finance, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B…with a lease term through 2050,” according to the Skanska press release. Cuomo’s call for a more holistic design delayed the closing of the deal between the Port Authority and LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the latter of whom won the bid last May. The $4 billion renovation will commence this summer, beginning with the demolition of a parking garage situated in front of the terminal building where the new 1.3 million-square-foot building will be erected. The existing terminal will continue normal use during the construction period. This design for the new terminal attempts to solve the major problems with the current airport—notably aircraft circulation, gate flexibility, and delays—by making use of an islands-and-bridge concept. Pedestrian ramps will connect the terminal building with two island concourses, spanning above active aircraft taxi lanes, as described by Crain’s. So far, $2.5 billion has been raised for the construction. LaGuardia Gateway Partners will pay approximately $1.8 billion of the cost of the new terminal. The Port Authority must contribute the remaining $2.2 billion. Of that $2.2 billion, much “will be used to pay for infrastructure around the new terminal,” according to Crain’s. LaGuardia Gateway has been promised the revenue generated by the tenants of the new terminal, as well as from airline fees. It is expected that the majority of work for the new terminal is scheduled for completion by 2020, at which time it can be opened. Substantial completion of the whole project should be reached by 2022.
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Sea Train

New transit line links Downtown Los Angeles to the beach
For transit boosters and urbanists in Los Angeles, last weekend’s opening of the 6.6 mile extension to the city’s Expo Line linking Downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica represents a capstone over a quarter century of hard-fought rail construction in a city notorious for its auto-dependent populace. Los Angeles systematically dismantled its pre-World War II Red Car system in the post-war era and did not begin rebuilding its rail transit infrastructure until in the late 1980s. Metro opened the Blue line in 1990, a 22-mile light rail route linking Downtown Los Angeles with Long Beach. Since then, the system has grown exponentially, with two subway routes, four light rail lines, and two rapid bus lines completed since. Much of the recent expansion has been funded with money collected via sales tax increases. The Metro has another such initiative, Measure R2, on the November ballot this year aiming to help the agency continue its vigorous growth. A first phase of the Expo Line opened in 2012 linking downtown to Culver City. The now-completed 15.2 mile route reestablishes rail transportation between the beach-adjacent westside communities and the region’s symbolic heart downtown by essentially reviving the route taken by the Pacific Electric Red Car service’s Air Line service that ran along the former Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe right of way between 1908 to 1953. The new line is expected to take around an hour end to end, about the same amount of time it takes to drive in good traffic. The Expo Phase II project was constructed via a design-build partnership between Skanska USA and Rados Construction Inc. and was administered by Expo Authority, the independent agency created by Metro to build the line. Skanska USA tapped Parsons Brinckerhoff to design the route’s tracks, stations, and bicycle facilities. Parsons Brinckerhoff also designed 24 at-grade and above-grade intersections for the line. Celebrations took place at each of the seven new stations last weekend and Metro offered free fares on Friday and Saturday to commemorate the completion of the new line. The much-hyped weekend saw so many Angelenos flock to stops along the route that service got backed up as enthusiasts and skeptics alike rode rail transit to the beach for the first time in sixty years. But in perhaps a sign the difficulty Metro faces in changing L.A.’s car-dependent culture, service ground to a halt for nearly two hours Monday morning when a drunk driver drove onto the Expo Line’s tracks along an at-grade run of the line near downtown, snarling the line’s first weekday morning commute.  
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Downtown Seattle

WA State Convention Center expansion developing even as lawsuit looms
Design plans are moving ahead on the convention center expansion in downtown Seattle with a design recommendation meeting scheduled for May 3rd. The Washington State Convention Center—which runs over Interstate 5 and holds large annual regional events like the February northwest garden show and the Emerald City ComiCon—opened in the spring of 1988. The just under 415,000 square foot center has reached capacity and has hired LMN Architects to add 440,000 square feet of convention space, 5 stories above ground, with underground parking (anywhere from 600-800 vehicles). The site for the expansion is about a block northeast at 1601 9th Avenue, what is currently the Convention Place bus station that routes buses through a bus tunnel. With more light rail coming in the near future and slated to use the bus tunnel, the city will make all buses run on the street by 2021. The convention center expansion plan requires demolishing the station. The project is part of what the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is describing as a “planned community development component.” In 2014, the convention center also bought property on two additional blocks, with plans for mixed-use projects on each. There’s a proposal for a 29 story building with 6,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 438 residences at 920 Olive Way (currently hosting two restaurants, a two story light rail transit facility, and parking lots). There’s also a planned 16 story office building on top of 11,000 square feet of commercial space at 1711 Boren Avenue (right now it’s a Honda dealership and car lot). Such a massive project is not without legal battles, however. The proposed construction timeline is on hold. Skanska and Hunt Construction, the hired contractor team, sued the convention center this March after the center dropped them from the project (reportedly to search for a cheaper firm). Earlier this April, the King County Superior Court issued a ruling: “King County Judge Beth Andrus on Wednesday denied Skanska-Hunt’s bid to be reinstated as the contractor, but granted the request to stop the convention center from starting to select a new contractor,” wrote the Seattle Times. “The question of whether the convention-center authority wrongly terminated Skanska-Hunt should be decided in a trial, beginning within 120 days, the judge ruled.” The total cost of the convention center project is estimated at $1.4 billion, with construction at $750 million. If the project moves beyond the lawsuit and finds a builder without delay, breaking ground could start early 2017, with an opening in 2020. On a side note, back in the fall of 2015, a Seattle firm proposed to cap a section of I-5 with a 2 mile long park that would run near the convention center expansion. At the moment, the project is just conceptual, but it would not be out of place close to Lawrence Halprin’s 1976 5.5 acre Freeway Park.
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Microsoft HoloLens partners with the first holographic real estate leasing center
The new holographic headset by Microsoft, HoloLens, has just started shipping to U.S. and Canadian developers last week for $3,000 (the consumer version release date is still unannounced). Now we hear the tech company giant is partnering with global real estate developer Skanska to create the first leasing center in the world using holographic technology. No word yet on the leasing center’s location, but the space is expected to open this June. The center is slated to help sell Skanska’s proposed and unbuilt project, 2+U, a downtown Seattle high rise planned between First and Second Avenues and Seneca and University Streets, with expected completion early 2019. Seattle-based digital production agency Studio 216, which specializes in real estate virtual and mixed-reality visualizations, is partnering with Microsoft and Skanska on the 2+U project. Unlike other virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift (which Facebook's acquired for $2 billion), HoloLens is untethered, and incorporates a more “mixed reality” or an “artificial reality” setup: users can still be present and aware of the space they are in and other people around them. Holograms are “projected” onto real objects in space. “Developing for Hololens is similar to developing for VR headsets, but you have to ask yourself different questions,” said Kyle Riesenbeck, Technical Lead for the 2+U Holographic project in a press release. “With VR, you have to create both the environment and the content, but with Hololens, the challenge is determining the best way to have your content interact with your existing world, and enhance your real life experience in a unique and necessary way.” According to Microsoft’s website, the device features sensors, a processing unit, special high-def color lenses, and built-in speakers. Microsoft is also collaborating with Lowe’s, the home improvement company, to help customers visualize new kitchen or living layouts, finishes, and more. Since we are on the topic of holograms, enjoy this YouTube video of the Seattle skyline, featuring a different type of holographic technology.
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Seaport Sets Sail
A 22-story condo tower at 150 Seaport Boulevard is one of several large developments at Boston's Seaport.
Courtesy 150 Seaport Boulevard

With more than a dozen projects under construction or preparing to break ground soon, the South Boston Waterfront is finally fulfilling the ambitions of so many developers—and the late ex-mayor Tom Menino, who once proposed moving City Hall there—who have glanced across the Fort Point Channel and seen potential.

Menino never decamped city government from its Brutalist offices downtown, but he did rebrand part of the South Boston Waterfront as the Innovation District. Although more commonly known as the Seaport District, the area has nonetheless succeeded in attracting the kind of tech jobs that its futuristic nickname suggests. General Electric announced last year that they’d leave their longtime headquarters in Connecticut for Boston, setting their sights on the Seaport District. Already home to millions of square feet of new office space, the Seaport hardly needed more validation as the epicenter of Boston’s commercial real estate boom. But GE’s intentions also come amid calls for more holistic planning in the rapidly changing Seaport, where shortages of housing and parking threaten to throttle human-scale development in the new neighborhood just as it gets on its feet.

150 Seaport Boulevard, a residential tower by Elkus Manfredi Architects.
 

The Seaport District, which comprises about 1,000 acres on the South Boston Waterfront, has long been an urban oddity. Until recently it was a sea of parking lots, rail yards, and muddy, postindustrial wharfs. Just across the Fort Point Channel from downtown Boston, it seemed ripe for rebirth. Things got going in 1991, when Pei Cobb Freed & Partners planted the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse there, paving the way for future development. Rafael Viñoly’s gleaming convention center opened in 2004, along with the public transit route known as the Silver Line, followed two years later by the Institute of Contemporary Art, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Commercial development followed. Vertex Pharmaceuticals bought more than one million square feet of lab and office space in a pair of 18-story towers along the waterfront. Last year PricewaterhouseCoopers left Boston’s Financial District for the green-glass office block at 101 Seaport Boulevard, now also home to the U.S. arm of its Swedish builder, Skanska.

Skanska broke ground in July on an oval-shaped building by CBT Architects, departing from the district’s growing forest of boxy office towers. Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 23-acre Seaport Square project, first proposed in 2010, is offering an “urban village” with high-rise housing clustered around landscaped plazas. Elkus Manfredi Architects is behind several projects in the neighborhood—which is also home to its office—most recently 150 Seaport Boulevard, a 22-story condo tower whose glass facade twists and billows like a ship’s sail.

“There were many people who didn’t believe this could be a viable part of Boston,” said principal Howard Elkus, whose latest project is targeting a 2017 groundbreaking. “You’re seeing the early stages of development. It’s hard to believe, given everything that’s going on, but there’s a lot of remaining potential here in the Seaport.”

City plans say more than 25,000 people may live in the Seaport District once it’s all built out (at an unspecified date in the future), which would make it more populous than many better-known Boston neighborhoods including Charlestown and Back Bay. Today, however, it has fewer than 2,000 housing units and largely empties out after business hours. That hasn’t stopped condos from fetching astronomical fees. Last year the area topped Back Bay as the priciest real estate in the city per square foot—a figure somewhat skewed by the sale of four penthouses at developer Fallon Company’s Twenty Two Liberty, which totaled more than $25 million. With GE on the way, city planners and developers now have to pull off a real innovation: How to translate a developer’s playground into an affordable, livable community.

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Gensler's Kristopher Stuart on Houston's Facades Scene
For Kristopher Stuart, design director and principal at Gensler, Houston's rapid evolution is exactly what makes practicing architecture there exciting."Houston is a city of change and a great testing ground for new ideas," he said. "The past decade has been particularly robust for design and construction, so we've developed some excellent benchmark projects representing the current state-of-the-art for facade design. The new projects focus on sustainability and resilience with our often extreme local weather in mind; wellness and connectivity that improve the quality of life for people; and performance and innovation that make buildings smarter, more efficient and more cost effective for owners and managers." Next month, Stuart will co-chair Facades+AM Houston, a half-day version of the acclaimed Facades+ conference series. The morning seminar comprises three panels featuring three experts each on topics relevant to AEC industry professionals, observers, and students in Houston and beyond. The June 18 event marks the symposium's Energy City debut. Facades+AM Houston attendees will not have to look far to find examples of innovative envelope design and construction. Stuart cited several recently-completed projects in the city's "energy corridor," plus high performance buildings for Anadarko, ExxonMobile, and Southwestern Energy north of downtown. Downtown, construction is presently underway on Skanska's Capitol Tower and 609 Main, developed by Hines. "It will be exciting to see this next generation of buildings emerge, iconic buildings that will raise the performance bar while enhancing the human experience within the urban environment," Stuart noted. He also pointed to some of the Midway Companies' recent or planned work including CityCentre and Kirby Grove, describing them as "more contextual, urban infill projects that are looking at facades from an experiential as well as a performance perspective, projects that will impact the way we think about facades in the Houston design community." In Stuart's view, Houston's challenging climate has pushed the local AEC industry to a deeper understanding of how design decisions affect performance. The community has also been successful in cultivating relationships with facades consultants and fabricators to execute efficient envelopes. "One might say that we've mastered the basics, and now need to shift our focus to innovative materials and fabrication techniques as well as unique collaboration relationships in order to achieve more dramatic performance enhancements that will be executable and affordable," he said. Stuart looks forward to the June 18 conversation with other movers and shakers in the field of high performance envelope design. "Facades+AM Houston is a unique opportunity to share some outstanding work that has been executed recently either in Houston or by Houston design firms, to hear about facade innovations from academic and industry experts, and to engage in a conversation about the future of building facades in the Houston market," said Stuart. To learn more or to register for Facades+AM Houston, visit the event website.
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Video> Michael Adlerstein & John Gering on retrofitting the United Nations Secretariat Building
In addition to being AN's Midwest Editor, I was the special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2014, interviewing tall building designers, developers, and other experts at the skyscraper think tank's Shanghai conference, and its annual CTBUH Awards ceremony in Chicago. In Chicago I interviewed two of the minds behind the recent overhaul to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City (technically, in an extraterritorial space contiguous with Midtown Manhattan). Michael Adlerstein, of the U.N. Capital Master Plan & John Gering, managing partner of design firm HLW International, discussed the retrofit of the 1953 United Nations Secretariat Building, a finalist in CTBUH's 2014 awards. “Not many buildings in our time are looking at the exterior window wall and composition with the interior as one system. In many cases they're looking at them as either the exterior or interior,” said Gering. “What we looked to do was blend those two things together, and the end result was a lot of energy savings.” The handsome glass skyscraper exemplifies midcentury office design, drawing on the  expertise of its architects, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison. But its outmoded performance standards left it in need of a serious update. In that sense the project to retrofit the building—which also included firms Heintges & Associates, Gardiner & Theobald, Skanska, and Rolf Jensen & Associates—is a case study for repurposing aging office buildings around the world. “All buildings need to be considered for recycling because they do incorporate tremendous embodied energy … And not just beautiful buildings and buildings where treaties were signed,” said Adlerstein. “I do feel the preservation movement has to move beyond iconic buildings.”
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Harvard Art Museums
Nic Lehoux

The recently opened Harvard Art Museums consolidates under one roof the university’s three art museums: the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler. Combined, these institutions boast larger holdings than the Boston MFA, some 250,000 objects, all of which are available to students by request. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Payette, the new facility’s purpose is to make this impressive collection more accessible with the hope of encouraging scholarship. At 200,000 square feet, it includes galleries, teaching spaces, and a sizeable conservation studio, as well as an auditorium and lecture hall.

The site chosen for the new facility was that of the existing Fogg, a protected 1927 Georgian revival edifice that had been added to several times over the years. The design team completely overhauled the Fogg, stripping it down to the landmarked portions of the building, which left the facade and about two thirds of the floor space, including an arcaded courtyard. A new Alaskan White Cedar and glass–clad, steel-framed structure was then added that seamlessly integrates with the historic building. A circulation corridor was cut through from Quincy Street to Prescott Street and a sloping, steel-framed glass roof links the old and the new.

   
 

“Renzo’s concept was to rip out the existing roof and put in a clear glass roof so that you would be able to see the sky,” said Robert Silman, president emeritus of structural engineering firm Robert Silman Associates (RSA), which worked with the architects on the project. “It’s a trademark of his work. This project, the Morgan, and the Whitney, all of which we worked on, have this characteristic. He likes to articulate the components and to make them visible. Slick isn’t what he’s after. There ought to be visible clarification of the primary, secondary, and tertiary members, and how the glass interacts with that framework. That’s the stuff you have to work on in collaboration from the beginning, or it doesn’t happen.”

The glass roof support structure is made up of double king post trusses that interlock to form its two halves. RSA performed extensive studies and worked closely with German fabricator Josef Gartner to engineer the system’s main structural components to a high-degree of precision so that it joins seamlessly with the existing building and the new steel-framed addition. The design team was able to convince the department of buildings to consider the roof a skylight, allowing them to only fireproof the structure’s hip brackets, a job that was accomplished with an intumescent coating. The rest of the structure is exposed, putting Piano’s carefully thought out connections on view for contemplation.

 

RESOURCES:
Arborist
Carl Cathcart
Civil Engineer
Nitsch Engineering
Cost Consultant
Davis Langdon
General Contractor
Skanska
Glass Roof Structure
Josef Gartner
MEP Engineer
Arup
Restoration
Building Conservation Associates

 

The conservation studio occupies the majority of the top floor, the fifth, giving the conservators access to abundant daylight. The fourth floor is dedicated to teaching, while second and third floors are reserved for gallery space. The first floor houses offices and through-building public circulation linking the Harvard campus across Quincy Street with Prescott Street. Throughout the lower floors, the engineering team was challenged with integrating modern mechanical systems with a structure whose beam dimensions and floor-to-floor heights matched the 1920s building. This required multiple pre-planned openings in beams through which to thread the services. The team also designed a frame with closely spaced beams whose bays are expressed with arched ceilings that maximize headroom.

 

The east side of the addition cantilevers at the second floor over a ramped walkway that links Broadway with the Prescott Street entrance. To the south, this walkway ties into Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center ramp. Floor-height trusses concealed within the walls support the cantilever over multiple bays of framing and allow for roomy column-free gallery spaces in this section of the addition. To the north and south, glass-enclosed galleries protrude from the main volume of the addition. Mechanically operated wood sunscreens in these sections give curators the ability to control the amount of daylight admitted into the galleries. Here, RSA had to keep building movement within tight tolerances to prevent the screens from binding when slid open or closed.

The auditorium and lecture hall were allocated to the basement, which required a significant excavation of the tight sight. RSA used a slurry wall foundation system that was cross-braced during excavation. In the final construction, the subterranean levels’ floor framing braces the concrete foundation walls. This was a tricky procedure because the ramp of the Carpenter comes down on top of the auditorium roof. It had to be temporarily shored during construction. “We had to hold up the ramp while we demolished a library that was on that spot and built the addition, simply because it’s Corbu,” said Silman. “It’s a block of concrete!” Work of genius or pile of cement, Skanska, which handled the construction, did its work carefully. The Carpenter ramp suffered no damage. Not that you could tell. In the words of Silman, “It’s pretty beat up as it is.”

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With the holidays gone, we're still ogling these six gingerbread houses by Seattle architects
It was the warmest December on record in Seattle, but that didn't stop local architects from designing their annual round of gingerbread houses at Christmas. The 2014 theme, “Jingle All the Way,” was inspired by holiday songs, with donations raised during the event (as in years past) going to the JDRF Northwest Chapter. There were the usual suspects: crystalline candy windows, gumdrop roofs, candy cane sleds, and of course, pounds and pounds of gingerbread. But there are plenty of surprises too. Callison’s interpretation of three popular holiday tunes brought gingerbread to Hollywood; MulvannyG2 put Santa in a lounge chair on a Hawaiian beach; and 4D Architects rendered the Seattle skyline in candy, with highlights like the Space Needle, a ferry, kayakers, and what looks like a sedate version of the Gum Wall, done up in multi-colored jelly beans rather than previously chewed gum. There’s also a tree-topped construction crane and a roller coaster. Can you spot them? Have a game of Where’s Waldo or I Spy. Below were the other four Seattle gingerbread houses of 2014.
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Problems Stacking Up
Courtesy SHoP

Just when it appeared that work was picking up at B2—the long-delayed, modular tower at Pacific Park Brooklyn (formerly Atlantic Yards)—the project screeched to a complete stop. In late August, Skanska USA, the contractor of the SHoP-designed high-rise, announced it was halting production of the building’s 930 modules at its factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Skanska blamed Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, for design errors that it said delayed the project and put it tens of millions of dollars over budget. Forest City disagrees. According to the developer, it is actually Skanska’s construction process that is to blame for B2’s slow and expensive climb. At the time, Forest City said Skanska was trying to “weasel out of” its contractual obligations by issuing a stop-work notice at its factory.

It did not take long for this back-and-forth to find its way to New York State Supreme Court. On September 2, Skanska sued Forest City. About 15 minutes later, Forest City sued Skanska. Nearly two months later, work on the project remains stalled.

 

This high-profile legal battle is just the latest setback for the tower that was supposed to rise faster and cost less than its conventionally built peers. It was supposed to be a shining example of the possibilities of modular construction. In New York City, and at Pacific Park specifically, building modular was seen as a way to more quickly deliver affordable units. But since breaking ground in December 2012, only 10 of B2’s 32 stories (half of which are designated for low- and middle-income households) have been completed. When B2 is topped off, it will be the tallest modular tower in the world.

James Garrison—the founder of Garrison Architects, which has done multiple modular projects—said it did not have to be this way. “What [Forest City] is trying to do is amazing, but it required more resources, care, and deliberation than it knew,” said Garrison who drew up initial plans for a modular tower for Forest City in the project’s early stages. He said he left the project after the two parties could not agree on a contract.

Garrison explained that modular construction, which has been compared to clicking LEGO pieces into place, is significantly more complicated than many people realize. “It is not a fly-by-night, pick it up on the run body of knowledge,” he said. “It is not easy, it takes expertise. It is like putting together an automobile.”

The challenge of building modular, he explained, is compounded when constructing tall towers. “When you stack these things up 30 stories, you have collective error,” he said. At B2, explained Garrison, the many modules had to be placed within a steel frame to create a stable, self-reinforcing structure that also has the proper internal connections. To accomplish that, every piece of the puzzle has to be perfect.

While Forest City said it hopes to build another modular tower at Pacific Park, there are currently no plans to do so. Despite the setbacks with B2, the development is continuing to grow. Two COOKFOX-designed, non-modular towers—one affordable and the other luxury condos—are scheduled to break ground before the end of the year. And another SHoP tower is scheduled to get underway next year. In the meantime, cranes have arrived next to the Barclays Center to install its long-awaited green roof.

Garrison said that the very public failings of B2 could make developers hesitant about building modular, but that the practice is not entirely doomed. “In the end,” he said, “this business of designing and prefabricating buildings is happening, and it is not going to stop.”